Peeler Easter Baseball Classic semifinal: South Rowan 3, Davie 2
By Mike London
When South Rowan plays at home, the P.A. system blares the familiar ESPN SportsCenter theme music after a fine defensive play.
It’s a shame the Raiders were at neutral Salisbury Saturday. It could have been “duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh” all night long.
If you love the glove this was the game to see. South used leather and luck to top Davie 3-2 in a Peeler tournament semifinal and earned a chance to defend its title Monday at 7 p.m.
“This was our best win all year,” center fielder Blake Houston said. “A game like this can turn things around and get us winning on a regular basis.”
South starter ó and finisher ó J.D. Bare wasn’t walking people so the War Eagles had to hit their way on. No matter how hard they hit it, South caught it.
“By far our best defensive game all season,” South coach Thad Chrismon said. “The key was we made all the routine plays early. Make the routines and it builds confidence. That’s when you start making the super plays.”
While it sounds a bit fishy, South catcher Josh Herring was also a story. A jayvee, Herring was promoted when part-time catcher Alex Ingold had a quad strain and starting catcher Preston Penninger experienced leg problems.
Penninger pitched on guts in Friday’s first round, but he was in the hospital Saturday taking fluids.
Herring filled in for him admirably behind the plate and hit a home run that provided the Raiders (7-7) with a huge emotional lift.
South got one in the first. Houston’s nice bunt and two walks filled the bases before Ingold hit a potential 1-2-3 double-play ball to end the inning. Davie (7-4) got the forceout at home, but catcher Jacob Vernon’s threw errantly to first and Maverick Miles scored from second.
Bare, who had pitched a complete game Tuesday, held that slim lead until the fourth when Davie made it 1-1 on singles by Carson Herndon and Vernon, a double steal and Herring’s passed ball.
Herring atoned for his mistake in the fifth, lifting his homer down the left-field line. It was a blast that turned Chrismon into a bouncing bundle of joy. Herring apologized for the passed ball as he approached third. Chrismon told him, “Not a problem.”
Two-out hits by Houston, Dylan Walker and Miles followed to make it 3-1.
“I shouldn’t have let Miles beat us there,” Davie coach Mike Herndon said. “He’s South’s bread and butter. He’ll get you.”
Connor Bodenheimer’s homer in the fifth cut South’s lead to 3-2.
Bare was tiring, but Houston chased down Carson Herndon’s well-stroked liner in the sixth. Jess Cartner ripped the cover off the ball. Sailing through the air, Dietz, the second baseman, somehow snagged it.
“We hit it hard, a lot harder than they did, but right at ’em all day,” Mike Herndon said. “That’s baseball.”
Davie pitcher Josh Berryhill, tough all day, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh to keep his team in it. Davie had one more chance and put two on with one out. Chrismon went out to visit Bare, but he couldn’t bear to take him out.
“He told me, ‘You’ve pitched great. Just stay calm,’ ” Bare said. “I just had to let my defense help. They were making a lot of great plays.”
Pinch-hitter Joe Watson flied to Houston. Two down. Tyler Seaford smashed a ball toward the hole ó a sure game-tying hit. But Miles, the shortstop, smothered it and was up and throwing a seed in a heartbeat.
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